Nerstrand Big Woods State Park (Minnesota) 14-May-2022

Our temporary quarters are fine but a little claustrophobic. This closeness continues to encourage us to go outside as often as possible. Fortunately, after its excesses of last week, the weather seems to be settling down to some approximation of “normal” (whatever that means these days). Hence today was warm and sunny, not humid, and with no bugs (yet). Ideal conditions under which to get on with our state park quest.

We continue to be impressed by how well organized the Minnesota state park system seems to be. Each park has a website with detailed information, summer and winter trails maps (PDF and GeoPDF), and a Visitor Alert section.

Nerstrand~Big Woods State Park is due south of the metro area and just east of Faribault (home of Cry Baby Craig’s outstanding hot sauce πŸ₯΅). When the park’s alert section advised us that it was now full of wildflowers, it became (obviously) today’s destination. An added bonus in this park is Hidden Falls, created by a limestone shelf on Prairie Creek not far in from the visitor center.

We hiked the Hiking Club Trail loop (which includes Hidden Falls) and added the Hope Trail for extra mileage (and because we couldn’t miss a trail named for us πŸ€—). Our main loop is Hike #39 in 60 Hikes and all the northern trails are shown on the Hiking Project.

The park’s website had warned us that parking here could be tight by 11.00 on weekends. And so it was. The parking lot was half full when we arrived at about 08.30 and completely full (with cars circling) when we got back before noon. 😲

Starting out on the Hidden Falls Trail
White Trout Lily
A boardwalk to limit erosion and protect sensitive plants
Hidden Falls is created by a limestone ledge
Hidden Falls
Hidden Falls

From the falls, we crossed Prairie Creek on a cement block ford and continued north on the Beaver Trail to its junction with the Fawn Trail, which we followed for a short distance to the start of the Hope Trail loop.

Fording Prairie Creek
Drooping Trillium
Up the Beaver Trail
Early Meadow Rue
On the Fawn Trail
We arrive at our namesake trail
On the Hope Trail
Trees over the Hope Trail
Looping back on the Hope Trail

After looping around the Hope Trail, we returned to the Beaver Trail and followed it to its junction with the White Oak Trail, which we took back to the parking lot.

The forests seem to be getting more leafed-out by the hour – in the two weeks we’ve been hiking around the metro area, they have gone from brown twigs to increasingly dense walls of greenery. Had it not been for its startlingly bright coloration, we wouldn’t have seen a Scarlet Tanager flitting amongst the now leafy trees.

Along the White Oak Trail
Scarlet Tanager – a netropical migrant
Blue Violets

By adding the Hope Trail, we stretched this hike out to 4.9 miles (7.8 km) with a cumulative elevation gain of 500 feet (152 m). There were wildflowers (with more to come) under an ever thickening green canopy. Hidden Falls was a special treat, as was the brief, but intense, appearance of that Tanager. All in all, a great day in the woods 😁

We further stretched our time away from our lodging by having lunch at the Crooked Pint Ale House (a local chain) in Faribault. Since today was the walleye opener here in Minnesota, I had a walleye sandwich to celebrate. And it was good… 🐟πŸ₯ͺπŸ˜‹


6 thoughts on “Nerstrand Big Woods State Park (Minnesota) 14-May-2022

  1. Great to see you discovered Nerstrand Big Woods. Be sure to return in the fall. You were just blocks from my house when dining at the Crooked Pint. We were out of town that day, on a day trip to Plainview and then along the Zumbro River Valley.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While the winter months have their own appealing beauty, it’s hard to top a leafy green forest and swaths of wildflowers. πŸ˜ƒ A close second would be when the forests here light-up with Fall colors – we caught some of that last September outside Fargo and it was gorgeous. The tanager is here only for the summer. Once things start to cool off, it’ll be back to South America for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks! Being cooped-up in temporary housing sure motivates us to get outside. Thankfully, the weather has been cooperating (most of the time). It was a cold and damp April here, which may have held up the leaf-out. But the forests have made up for that in just the last two weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like you are off to a good start in your quest to visit all of the state parks in your new home state –
    enjoying your new posts
    I m also always amazed at how rapidly deciduous forests switch from sticks and limbs to full green


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